​Minority Rights Coalition holds Unpacking Privilege event for United Nations Women at U.Va.

Program focuses on multicultural sensitivity

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Nine MRC members started the Unpacking Privilege program last spring and have been giving presentations to students since the fall. 

The Minority Rights Coalition presented their Unpacking Privilege, Understanding Perspective program to the United Nations Women at U.Va. organization Tuesday night. The Unpacking Privilege program aims to increase multicultural sensitivity among University students and bring awareness to issues students may not have encountered. It focuses on topics surrounding sexuality, disability, religion and gender.

“While U.Va. has different sessions on alcohol prevention, hazing and sexual assault, there wasn’t anything on multiculturalism,” Joan Lee, MRC vice president of Unpacking Privilege and second-year College student, said. “We really just want to bring out dialogues and conversations to people who don’t usually interact with those different types of topics of multiculturalism.”

The University Guide Service helped the MRC in designing the Unpacking Privilege presentation to include the University’s history of racial and gender discrimination. The presentation explained the purpose of certain buildings and places around Grounds, revealing the University’s history of prejudice against women and minorities, as well as stories about students who experienced severe discrimination.

The presentation also mentioned recent incidents of hate speech and discrimination as important reasons for raising awareness of multicultural issues. The past year has seen a slew of hate speech incidents at and around the University, such as anti-Semitic graffiti on the Grandmarc apartment complex, racial slurs written throughout the Kent-Dabney dorms and an anti-Muslim comment written near a suit in Brown College.

The Unpacking Privilege presentation provided statistics about racial perceptions, student demographics compared to other schools and financial aid at the University. The presentation aimed to foster a dialogue about stereotypes, implicit bias, political correctness and inclusion as important topics in addressing multiculturalism.

Niya Wilson Williams, vice president of United Nations Women at U.Va. and a third-year College student, said she thought the Unpacking Privilege presentation would be a way to show her organization’s increasing diversity.

“I thought this was an opportunity U.N. Women needed because it used to be run by mostly white college students, and I was the first black woman to be part of U.N. Women,” Williams said.

Danielle Klehr, president of U.N. Women and a fourth-year College student, said she wanted the MRC to present on multiculturalism as a way of “educating our members on the importance of identifying your own privilege and how you might be unintentionally biased toward others.”

Nine MRC members started the program last spring and have been giving presentations to students since the fall. In the four to five months it has been active, the program has presented to over 700 students. UP offers sessions for fraternities and sororities, residential colleges and other CIOs and student organizations.

“In the future, we want to continue expanding. We want to continue offering information for U.Va. students,” Lee said. “We really just want to start the dialogue and be liaisons for people who want to get more involved in the U.Va. community.”

Unpacking Privilege listed ways for students to get involved in multicultural issues around Grounds. It provided examples of how students have led important change on these topics in the past and encouraged students to continue to do the same.

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